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August 20, 2014

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Veteran-laden Virgin Valley promises improvement

Healthy Dee Bowler should be one of the best players in the Division 1A

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Virgin Valley High of Mesquite football players (from left) Dee Bowler, Garrett Leavitt, Beau Leavitt, Dillon Graves and Devonte Milligan before the 2013 season.

Prep Sports Now

Football season preview

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Prep Sports Now returns from hibernation just in time for football season. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer go through every league and discuss every team in town, giving predictions along and players to watch along the way.

2013 Prep Football

Valley High football players (from left) Noble Hall, Demarrius Oliver and Tyrone Prewitt before the 2013 season. Launch slideshow »

Chris Sawyers, Virgin Valley head coach

Chris Sawyers, Virgin Valley head coach, talks about the upcoming season.

On the surface, Virgin Valley put together a decent season last year under new coach Chris Sawyers.

While far from perfect, the Bulldogs did manage to finish the regular season with a winning record and advance to the playoffs. Just don’t try to sell Sawyers on the positives.

“I wasn’t happy with the way things went last year,” Sawyers said. “We lost to Boulder City 15-12 in a game we shouldn’t have and then had Desert Pines on the ropes for a while before losing that one. We definitely should have won a few more games.”

Sawyers recites details of the 2012 slip-ups as if it’s not his first time vocalizing the disappointments. He’s spent the offseason motivating his team with reminders and ways that they can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Perhaps as a result, Sawyers reports his expectations of what the Bulldogs could do to get ready before the season have been exceeded. They played well at scrimmages and stood out among a mass of teams at the camp they attended.

“We’ve been lifting weights all summer, all year trying to get bigger,” said senior running back, wide receiver and linebacker Bowler said. “I’ve put on a little bit of weight and everybody has.”

Bowler, who’s getting recruited by a number of schools including UNLV and Utah, is a walking contradiction to the rule that a single player can’t have too much impact on a high school football team. Virgin Valley started 4-1 with Bowler starring last year before getting hurt.

The Bulldogs dropped all three games Bowler missed — to Boulder City, Desert Pines and a particularly painful 47-6 blowout loss against rival Moapa Valley — before winning the regular season finale when he came back.

“Our kids didn’t really feel like we could do it without Dee,” Sawyers said. “This year, I think we’re going to have injuries like always but we’ve built these kids up mentally and they’re going to stay together.”

Virgin Valley won’t be afraid to air out the ball with its spread offense. And returning senior quarterback Garrett Leavitt will have more to work with than just Bowler.

Seniors Dillon Graves and DeVonte Milligan will both get their fair share of targets as well while also playing key roles on defense.

“I feel like we’re a lot better team than we were a year ago,” Sawyers said. “We’ve learned what it takes to be dedicated and committed to your team, your coach. One of the best things about our team is we have a lot of seniors — last year we didn’t have any — and we have a strong backbone to lean on. Last year, we didn’t have that and we didn’t believe.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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